We’ve talked before about the convergence of the digital work environment, traditionally owned by IT, and the physical, owned by facilities. With a greater focus on employee experience and, as a result, more access to behavioral data through occupancy, productivity, and space management tools, these roles are coming together more often. Now, they can collaborate on ways to make the digital and physical worlds connect as seamlessly as possible.
Similar to how social networks and internet search created new data on user interest, workplace tools are forging categories of data about how people work. Led by this merged IT and facilities manager, organizations are beginning to capture insights to improve their teams’ ability to innovate and execute.
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What are these new categories of data?
Data on facility usage is useful not only in the beginning stages of building out space but continuously as new technology impacts employee behavior and processes. For example, collecting data on meeting room utilization can help you modify your floorplan over time to ensure your employees get the most out of the spaces provided. This boosts employee experience and also ensures you’re only spending on square feet that are actually being used.
Examples that affect both IT and facilities include:
• Occupancy data: Occupancy data helps facilities and IT get an accurate idea of how all types of spaces are used in the workplace. Companies like Density anonymously count people in a specific area using real-time A.I. occupancy and space utilization analytics. This type of information helps answer questions like: what days of the week are busiest? What areas are too crowded or crammed? And, what spaces do people tend to avoid?
• Workplace productivity tools: Rolling out new software typically lives under the IT umbrella, but data from certain tools can tell both IT and facilities a lot about how employees are interacting and ways to make collaboration in the workplace easier. For example, Slack tells individuals which teams they communicate with most frequently. If certain people or departments are collaborating on a project frequently through digital communication platforms, that’s a good sign that setting up more physical collaboration areas based on their needs will help streamline efforts.
• Space management software:
- Space utilization: Utilization is the percentage of time that spaces are reserved during a certain time period. Organizations can answer questions like, do we have enough spaces for employees to meet? Are some spaces going underutilized? Are others always booked? IT and facilities can compare the digital and physical environments in each space to understand core competencies and where they should focus their attention to have the highest impact on workplace experience.
- Space usage: For a long time, the best methods to understand how office space was used were observation and employee feedback. But we know that how employees think they use a space often differs from how they actually do. Understanding meetings based on their duration and space type surfaces the relationship between spaces and the types of events they host. If employees don’t show up to recurring meetings or keep holding two-person meetings in a 10-person boardroom, this type of data will immediately surface. Or, if employees are booking spaces ad-hoc most of the time, IT and facilities can start to bring in more types of spaces - like huddle zones or pods - that support that culture.
- Recaptured time: On the surface, abandoned meetings don’t seem harmful. When someone doesn’t show up to a scheduled meeting, it seems as though the work day moves along as it normally would. But when you dive deeper, the consequence of abandoned meetings affect employee productivity, morale, and company spend. With data around recaptured time, the total time released when nobody checks into a meeting in a reserved space, companies are able to release open space back to the rest of the office, see how often people are abandoning meetings, what spaces are abandoned most often and when. With this data, facilities and IT can work together to improve meeting culture.
Ways IT and facilities come together through surveys
Surveying employees and collecting feedback doesn’t seem like a “new” category of data. But with employee experience being a workplace priority, feedback straight from the source is invaluable. Traditionally, IT and facilities teams didn’t need to communicate frequently. Now understanding employee perception of the digital and physical environments requires much more cross-team transparency.
Authenticity is the most important factor in figuring out what kind of workplace people need. CultureAMP, a people and culture platform, helps companies understand employee engagement and performance. To hear the company’s Chief Growth Officer, JD Peterson, talk about it, you would think that culture isn’t just an important thing, it might be everything. “Culture is where people work, who they do their work with, when they do their work, how they do it, and how they feel about doing it,” he said.
One of the key components to surveying employees, Peterson describes, is limiting them to things the organization can really take action on.
“If you ask people what they want, but don’t act on it, it can do more harm than good. People don’t have ‘survey fatigue,’ what they have is fatigue over lack of action.”
There are several ways to understand your company’s culture better: listen to what people tell you in passing, at company events or over the lunch table, observe which conference rooms get used most, and which ones never get used at all, and then, of course, follow up on employee surveys.
Leesman, a global business intelligence tool, helps companies understand exactly how effective their office environment is using employee surveys and global workplace benchmarks. With workplace surveys, organizations can immediately recognize how well their employees are supported at work and ways to level up their digital workplace strategy. Rather than only asking people how productive they are, Leesman is more targeted using questions like, “Thinking about the work that you do, which of the following activities are important and how well are they supported?”
The way we work is changing. Categories of data, both quantitative and qualitative, continue to stretch the boundaries of collaboration beyond the digital world and across physical spaces and locations.
Understanding the convergence of the digital and physical workplace environments and the uncovered data that surface as a result is changing the way IT and facilities management work together — or become one — to improve workplace experience.